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Travelling through time - 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Travelling through time [Wednesday 18th November 2009 at 11:03 pm]
Thomas

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The Master Sword is a ship with which you can sail upstream and downstream through time's river... The port for that ship is in the Temple of Time...

While playing Ocarina of Time I started wondering about the time travel involved in it. For those of you who don't know, you start out as ten-year-old Link but after the first quarter of the game you travel seven years into the future. Later on, you get the ability to travel between both points in time.

The thing is, when you arrive in the future you've also physically aged seven years. So you've not so much travelled through time as slept through it. This makes some sense: when you pulled out the Master Sword, your spirit is sealed away for seven years until you're old enough to be able to weild it (young Link can barely reach to pull it out from the plinth in the first place!).

Anyway, you trundle along to Kakariko village, pick up the Hookshot, and then learn the Song of Storms. This one has always intrigued me. You learn the song from the windmill guy, who picked it up seven years ago when an Ocarina kid turned up and played a song which messed up the windmill. Ocarina kid? Well, it can't have been you, as you've never played this song before... or can it?

Potential paradoxes aside, at some point you'll head back to the Temple of Time. Here Sheik will appear and tell you that you can put the sword back in the pedastal, and by doing so you will travel back in time. This is where it gets weird. You never actually travelled forwards in time in the first place, but were just sealed away. And yet, returning the sword will not only take you back seven years, but when the blue light fades you're back in your ten-year-old body! This makes no sense by classical time travel theory, and no sense by the "sealed away" theory either.

The other puzzle, and what originally caused me to start writing this post, is *when* do you arrive? You don't return to the same point in time every time you use the sword, as things that you do as young Link don't get reverted. So the possibilities are that you return immediately (so that if someone was standing there in Past Hyrule, watching you, they'd see you grab the sword, a flash of blue light, and then you letting go of the sword), or that you travel back exactly seven years (so the watcher would see you disappear and reappear several days later)? I've never checked the in-game clock to work this one out.

You can also travel forwards in time again, though this is much more explainable: you get sealed away for seven years again. It's implied that you have no sense of what happens during these seven years - you blink, and you're a few feet taller.

Anyway, back to your younger self. After some more dungeon-crawling you end up back at the windmill again. Still no sign of that pesky Ocarina kid... but the only person in all of Past Hyrule that knows the Song of Storms is you, and so you play that song, teaching it to the windmill guy. The same windmill guy who seven years later teaches it back to you. It's a wonderful paradox, and just where did that song come from?

Just when you thought there was enough messing around with the time stream, you get the ending to the game (which I assume you all know, but stop reading now if you've somehow not finished it yet). The sages banish Ganon to the Sacred Realm, and seal him away for a long time. Future Hyrule is still a right mess: Hyrule Castle is a lava-filled crater, the town is a ruined shell, and monsters are roaming the land. So Zelda uses the Ocarina of Time to return you for the last time to Past Hyrule, though again I'm not sure when you arrive. You return to the Temple of Time, and the door is still open so Ganondorf can still waltz in and try to control the Triforce... except he's sealed away in the Sacred Realm. Even though that happened in the future. How does that work?

For added speculation, what happens to Future Hyrule? Remember, we've got a seven year period where for a large chunk of it Ganondorf ruled over all. This can't just disappear... can it? I remember an old TV cartoon where they sent someone to the past to defeat some evil. When their hero returned to the future and asked if he managed to stop the enemy, no-one knew who he was talking about. Does the same happen here: the Future Hyrule that we know morph into the new Future-without-Ganon Hyrule without anyone realising?

Did it really happen?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: omgimsuchadork
Thursday 19th November 2009 at 6:42 am (UTC)

It all happens. [1/2]

With one exception*, I don't think there are any paradoxes flying around Link's time travel, strange as that might sound. With respect to travelling back and forth through time, the game clock only gives the time of day, but the exact time is preserved, so it would lead one to believe that, as you said, if you were watching Link draw or replace the sword, he'd grab it, the blue light would come and go, and he'd be standing right back there when the light faded, as though nothing happened. When he's an adult, the past is unaffected, simply because all that he just did hasn't happened yet. When he's a child, everything IS happening, so it will affect the future.

As for the Song of Storms, it's simple: Link made up the song originally, and forgot it. It had been seven years since he heard the thing. If you go by what happens in the game, it's the Windmill Guy who teaches Link the song, and all songs are taught before Link learns them, right? Chronologically, though, all the kid stuff happens before all the adult stuff, so Link taught himself the song. WG plays it again in the future, Link relearns it. That's not the only song Link teaches himself, either: let's not forget the Scarecrow Song.

So far, so good, I think. The endgame is the part I have the hardest time explaining, especially because I'm one of the last pesky Single Timeline theorists who refuses to budge on the idea.

At the end of the game, when Link's a kid again, Ganon(dorf) is not sealed in the Sacred Realm... yet. It hasn't happened yet because it happens when Link's an adult, and if he's just a kid, he's not an adult yet (chronologically, not gamewise). In fact, he's already waltzed in and taken control of the Triforce, or tried to, because that's what happens almost immediately after the room with the Pedestal of Time is opened. Let's say that, somehow, Link wasn't transported through time to the future and his adult self.

Navi flies away. Link returns to the castle, and Zelda's there**, we know this. But figure that's when he's like "Hey, Zelda. Yeah, sorry I couldn't get that sword, but it's kinda bigger than me right now. My faerie flew away, though, so I'm gonna go find her. Yeah, I remember the Song of Time. I'll try again later; see you in a few years, I guess." And then Majora's Mask happens. The details here go a bit fuzzy, but what happens next is basically seven years of adventuring and getting stronger so he can wield the Master Sword against Ganon(dorf), who, in the meantime, has taken total control of Hyrule.

Upon Ganon(dorf)'s defeat, Zelda sends Link back in time, trying to get him to reclaim his lost childhood, which is still reasonable, given that he just spent the last seven years of his life training for this one thing. The whole cycle starts over again, but only for Link. He's stuck in a time loop of sorts. As for Ganon(dorf) and Zelda, they're in the future, living out their lives (future!Hyrule also continues to exist, and will be rebuilt eventually). They continue, but Link no longer exists; for all intents and purposes, he's dead, since he's not there anymore and exists only in the past. Furthermore, since this part happens in the future, Link has no memory of it happening -- as, again, it hasn't happened yet -- so, from Link's point of view, everything's happening for the first time. From, say, Zelda's point of view, everything's already happened and it's all static, because there's no changing the past: progression in the Kid!Link part of the story is final: once you do something, there's no going back to a time before it happened.

It's so confusing, but it makes perfect sense to me. I just have a hard time explaining it. I could probably do a better job if I took the time to write it out well enough.

As for the asterisks I included:
*The one exception is the Silver Gauntlets. Link gets those as a kid, but does NOT have them the entire time he's an adult; chronologically, they just appear on his arms one day. Big hole in the story.

(Stupid character limit...)
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[User Picture]From: omgimsuchadork
Thursday 19th November 2009 at 6:43 am (UTC)

Re: It all happens. [2/2]

**Maybe when Zelda sends him back through time -- since it wasn't Link placing the sword to rest -- her magic isn't all that accurate and she sent him back a little later than he set out. Enough to have given her younger self a chance to return to the castle, which she fled before Link opened the Door of Time. I don't know, that's all I got.
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[User Picture]From: boggyb
Saturday 21st November 2009 at 10:51 pm (UTC)

Re: It all happens. [2/2]

Time travel theories make my brain hurt...

I *think* I've understood that post, but I'm struggling to fit it with how the game goes. In the first iteration of this, in say Hyrulian year 2000 Link gets the Spiritual Stones, goes to the Temple of Time, and travels to the future. This is now Hyrulian year 2007. Link now beats the first few Temples. He then returns to year 2000 to do the Well and the first half of the Spirit Temple. Having done that, he heads back to the future of 2007 to splat Ganon. So far, so good?

Then Zelda sends him back to the past, and we now have Hyrulian year 2007 in which Link has vanished but everyone else still exists. Ok?

Back in year 2000, Link presumably has no memory of his actions in the year 2007. He's done it all, if he'd been wearing a watch that wasn't affected by time travel then it would be a few weeks fast, but he doesn't remember any of it and doesn't have a gap in his memory either. So he heads off to level up, and Majora's Mask happens.

Seven years later, he returns to Hyrule in the year 2007 and... now what? If I've got it right so far, at this point there's two Links: the Link who grew up the slow way (and has a watch saying 2007), and the Link who travelled through time (and has a watch saying 2000). This doesn't make sense to me, though I may have misunderstood your post.


The other single timeline "it all happens" theory I can think of is one without any time travel. It works, after a fashion: past!Link never travels to the future. The Master Sword does not do any time travel, but is merely a nice sword with a +3 bonus against evil. When you play the game, you're actually changing viewpoints between past!Link and future!Link (similar to controlling characters in Wind Waker). The trouble with this one is the game contradicts it. You get Navi exclaiming that you've grown up, but the biggest hole in that is that both past!Link and future!Link have the exact same items (both static ones like the Gauntlets, and variable ones like how many bombs you're carrying).


I think the timeline that makes the most sense to me is a single timeline one where the future never happened. Oh, you did it all, but future!Hyrule ceased to exist when Ganon was sealed away (or possibly forked into an alternate continuity, but if it does that it becomes separated from the prime timeline). The prime timeline is now one in which Ganon never existed outside of the Sacred Realm, and you return to Zelda to announce your victory:

"We did it!"
"...did what?"

Then Majora's Mask happens, and some other games in the series happen, but the Hyrule of 2007 is much the same as the Hyrule of 2000. The only people who know what happened are you, and possibly that dratted owl (he seems to have done some time travelling of his own). It's a good timeline - Ganon razing Castle Town to the ground never happened - but also sad, in some ways.
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[User Picture]From: omgimsuchadork
Sunday 22nd November 2009 at 1:43 am (UTC)

Re: It all happens. [2/2]

If you're trying to fit my theory into the game, it won't work. The best you can do is fit the game into the theory, which is how I came up with it in the first place. Because OoT's a game, you can do things in it that you can't do in the real world (like travel through time). But if you take the basic idea and structure of the story, you can create around it a plausible enough tale.

Seven years later, he returns to Hyrule in the year 2007 and... now what? If I've got it right so far, at this point there's two Links: the Link who grew up the slow way (and has a watch saying 2007), and the Link who travelled through time (and has a watch saying 2000). This doesn't make sense to me, though I may have misunderstood your post.

I see what you're saying, and this idea presents an excellent point, but it also depends on 2000!Link successfully travelling through time. For the sake of my theory, he can't do that, just as you can't do that in the real world (sorry, I should have been more clear the first time around). Say, when he gets to the Sword for the first time and attempts to pull it, that somehow opens the pathway to the Sacred Realm -- allowing Ganondorf to get in -- but the Sword does not accept him. From a third-person view, the blue light comes and goes, and Link heads back to Hyrule Castle. He meets Zelda again, blah, blah, blah. 2000!Link will eventually return to Hyrule to claim the Master Sword, and his watch will say 2007.

As for Zelda sending him back, it's magic-based, so anyone can say how the magic works, since it doesn't actually exist. Perhaps when Link is sent back, Zelda can send him back to the EXACT point he touched the Master Sword so that the two Links, existing in the same place at the same time, are actually one and the same. Perhaps she doesn't do it correctly and Link's shunted to another dimension, or he just fizzles away (since, remember, you can't actually travel through time!). I don't know. The point is, at any given point in time, there is only one Link.

I don't understand how the other single timeline works. How can you change viewpoints a la Wind Waker if past! and future!Link don't exist at the same time?

I think the timeline that makes the most sense to me is a single timeline one where the future never happened.

I thought that was the basis for the split timeline? That when Link is sent back through time, it creates a split where a) Ganon(dorf) was defeated -- the adult timeline; and b) nothing happens to Hyrule because Ganondorf never got started -- the child timeline. Personally, I don't see how that works, because changing the future does not affect what happened in the past. Something I do today will not change what happened ten years ago, but what happened ten years ago probably very much affected the person I am now.

... the Hyrule of 2007 is much the same as the Hyrule of 2000. The only people who know what happened are you, and possibly that dratted owl

How can he possibly remember things that never happened, especially if he never travelled through time?

I'm sorry if I misunderstood any bit of your post; this really is very confusing.
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[User Picture]From: nendil
Thursday 19th November 2009 at 7:09 pm (UTC)
Hohoh~ perfect timing as I am just revisiting my fic for which I have (and still am) worked all this out over and over.

The traveling backwards through time doesn't make for very good narrative which is surely why the manga (and I) kind of pretend it never happened, plot-wise. It's justifiable (see above) but it's much better for game design than story design.

The ending timeline, however, is one that has been addressed a few times. Miyamoto and/or Aonuma have stated that Zelda's sending Link back in time created a split timeline - the "kid" timeline where Ganondorf is inexplicably sealed away and Hyrule is at peace, and the "adult" timeline where the Hero of Time defeats Ganon and is never heard from again, and Hyrule recovers from destruction. (Oddly Nerdily enough I came to this same conclusion before those creator statements just from examining the dialogue in Majora's Mask. ._.) The "kid" timeline leads to Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess, while the "adult" timeline leads to Wind Waker (and Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks).
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